Schumacher tries to wow delegates

AMSTERDAM — Lengthy clips from “Monsters, Inc.” and “Lilo and Stitch” toplined a 90-minute glimpse into the future of Walt Disney Feature Animation for foreign exhibs gathered Wednesday at Cinema Expo Intl.

With Disney facing threats to its animated supremacy as DreamWorks’ “Shrek” piles up global B.O. and rivals touted their toon wares at this year’s expo, animation prexy Thomas Schumacher tried energetically to wow delegates with highlights from the release slate all the way through to 2004.

Four extended sequences from Pixar’s “Monster, Inc.” certainly hit the spot for the assembled crowd. Pic is due for Euro release next spring.

A roughly animated opening passage from quirky Hawaiian comedy “Lilo and Stitch,” scheduled for summer 2002, met with a somewhat more guarded response, possibly due to an unusual blend of sci-fi and contempo elements (plus Elvis Presley songs thrown in for good measure), but reaction was generally positive.

Buena Vista Intl., Disney’s foreign arm, usually screens two movies — one animated and one live action — at Cinema Expo. But with “Pearl Harbor” already rolling into foreign theaters, the company decided to focus solely on animation, with Schumacher’s presentation followed by a screening of “Atlantis: The Lost Empire.”

Schumacher confirmed Disney’s new strategy to release large-format versions of its classic films every New Year’s Day, starting on Jan. 1 with a new cut of “Beauty and the Beast.”

Animated updates

He also showed clips from “Peter Pan — Return to Neverland,” the latest in a line of spring releases aimed at refreshing the company’s back catalog of characters.

“Treasure Planet,” an updating of “Treasure Island,” will follow “Lilo and Stitch” into theaters at the end of 2002. Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” (of which no clips were shown) is scheduled for summer 2003.

Schumacher also gave a brief glimpse of the musical Western “Sweating Bullets,” with Judi Dench as the voice of a cow, which is on course for fall 2003. The following year, 2004, will bring “Bears,” with music by Phil Collins, and “Toy Story” director John Lasseter’s top-secret next project.

Warners returns

Day three of Cinema Expo also featured the return of Warner Bros. to the event for the first time in several years after a change in command at the studio’s international arm.

Warner’s Veronika Kwan-Rubinek, prexy of international distribution, and Sue Kroll, prexy of international marketing, hosted a breakfast and promo reel screening followed by an unspooling of “Cats and Dogs.”

After “Doctor Dolittle 2″ the previous night, then Disney’s usual gamut of cute critters and with Columbia next due to present “The Animal,” delegates were starting to itch for some human drama.

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